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Hundreds File Papers to Run for the Egyptian Presidency as Fears of Islamist Control Still Linger

"Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood yesterday announced that it has chosen the candidate it will back..."

Egyptian Presidential hopeful Abdel-Moneim Abolfotoh, a Muslim Brotherhood figure, talks under a giant billboard showing his picture during a conference in Cairo, Egypt. Egypt officially started on Saturday the process of holding its first-ever free presidential elections, with the door opening for candidates to submit their applications. (AP)

CAIRO (The Blaze/AP) -- Egyptian election officials say nearly 500 people have obtained applications to run for president, a sign of the excitement generated by the country's first presidential elections in which the outcome is in doubt.

Election officials say 472 people have by Wednesday received the papers to officially declare their candidacy for the vote, which follows last year's ouster of Hosni Mubarak.

They said that, beside known presidential hopefuls who have been seriously campaigning, the applicants included a wide range of obscure Egyptians in different professions like journalists, judges, lawyers and school teachers. While the candidate pool is encouraging, many questions still remain.

Considering the control that the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood has in the Egyptian Parliament, many wonder how profound its impact will be on the election. Already, the much-anticipated race has been marred by intense speculation that the Brotherhood, the country's most powerful political group, is working behind the scenes with the country's ruling military generals to come up with a consensus candidate to run in the election.

Politicians from the era of deposed president Hosni Mubarak, ex-military officers, and moderate and hardline Islamists are expected to be the front-runners in a vote slated for May 23 and May 24. The Irish Times adds more to the discussion over the Brotherhood's potential influence:

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood yesterday announced that it has chosen the candidate it will back in the coming presidential election.

Although he has not been named, he believed to be Mansour Hassan, who heads the council advising the country’s military rulers and who served as culture and information minister under president Anwar Sadat, the predecessor of ousted Hosni Mubarak.

Spokesman Mahmoud Ghozlan said the Brotherhood would ensure the candidate received the necessary approval of 30 members of the 508-member parliament and said he would be supported by other political forces as he had the requisite standing.

Since the Brotherhood’s political arm, Freedom and Justice, controls more than 40 per cent of the seats in the assembly, the movement can deliver. Because of its organisation at grassroots le- vel, its candidate is certain to enjoy a major advantage over rivals.

Despite hundreds of candidates joining the cause, it seems there are clear frontrunners who have distinguished themselves. The New York Times reports:

Amr Moussa, a charismatic former foreign minister, is the clear front-runner.

But the most unpredictable variable in the race is his leading challenger, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood whose iconoclastic campaign is now attracting the support not only of young Islamists but also of a growing number of liberals, like Rabab el-Mahdi.

It is these three candidates -- Amr Moussa, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh and Mansour Hassan -- who many believe have a good chance of winning the upcoming election, despite the large pool of potential presidential picks.

The officials who shared the figures about candidate registration spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

One last thing…
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